From Hansard – MP Gladu on the Border

Marilyn Gladu: Thank you chair, last week the Prime Minister announced that immediate families of Canadians would be able to cross the border from the US to address reunification issues like Child custody, medical issues, and spousal reunification.  But people who are engaged and people who are long term partners that are not common law were excluded. And in addition it’s left to the discretion of individual CBSA agents to determine whether or not they can come in. And so, will the minister address this gap and provide clear criteria to the CBSA that includes fiancees and those that are long term partners.

Bill Blair: I begin by thanking the member opposite for her question and her strong advocacy on this and I’ve appreciated her advocacy and her advice but I would also remind her that the steps that we have taken were put in place to protect the health and safety of Canadians.  We have responded to concerns that were raised about the need to keep families together and that’s why we introduced by order in council very clear rules and instructions to CBSA.  CBSA is doing the important job of ensuring that all travel to Canada is essential and they are acknowledging and recognizing the exemptions that have been put in place which are quite appropriate under the circumstances.

Marilyn Gladu: Well by excluding long term partners and people who are engaged its actually a charter violation of discrimination based on people’s family situation so that needs to be addressed. There’s also property issues that are occurring.  Many people in my riding store their boats over in Port Huron. And currently because it’s not considered essential travel they have to go hire a foreign national skipper to bring an extra boat to bring their boat over so that it can be cleared, instead of just being allowed to go and retrieve their property. Will the minister provide an exemption for Canadians to retrieve their property from the US?

Bill Blair: I thank the member for the question and I’m not without sympathy to Canadian’s that find themselves in that position but I would simply remind the member and all Canadians that our first priority has to be the health and safety of Canadians.  We have put in quite appropriate and necessary restrictions on non essential travel, we’re working very closely with the provinces. And I will tell you that there have been strong concerns expressed by our provincial partners about ensuring that all international travel coming across the Canadian border is in fact essential and so we are doing our best to uphold those rules and at the same time when people are faced with these difficult situations we’ll work with them to try to find solutions to their concerns.

Marilyn Gladu: Truckers are going back and forth across the border everyday as are other folks conducting commerce.  There are many Canadian’s that own property in the US that are not allowed to go to their property which is a condition of their insurance and it’s causing some hardships so will the minister create an exemption for them?

Bill Blair: the member opposite quite rightly identifies some of the hardships that Canadians and all of us have experienced as a result of this pandemic.  But the steps that we have put in place are necessary to keep people safe.  I’d also remind the member, the movement of essential trade and goods across our border is what puts food on the shelf, pharmaceuticals in our drug stores, provides Canadians and Canadian industry with the supplies and equipment that they need to do their job and the movement of essential workers is also something that is necessary and allowed.

Marilyn Gladu:  The minister needs to be aware that these Canadians who are being put through these hardships are willing to self isolate and obey all the rules on both sides of the border and they have rights to access to their property that’s being denied by the government extending the border restrictions.